I’m Angry*

It’s Monday, and I’m angry.

I’m angry because, after a weekend of careful planning, after differentiating an assignment for students who have mastered skills at different levels, after catching up on all of my grading, after getting my lesson plans in on time with the TEKS and the Reading Comprehension standards and the ELPS, I couldn’t print anything I needed for class because our copy machine is broken. Again. I’m angry because I had to make something up on the fly, putting my students further behind from where we should be right now. I’m angry that this roadblock put me in such a foul mood that I snapped at one of my students when he asked to show me his medal from the 10K he ran this weekend.

I’m angry because my 7th graders are taking their reading STAAR in a few weeks, and I am mandated to use Pearson’s test prep books at least two periods a week. I’m angry because this is disrupting their amazing theatre projects. I’m angry because Pearson is making money off of my students’ wasted learning time.

I’m angry because my 8th graders are being pulled daily from DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) to receive STAAR test prep for their science test in a few weeks. I’m angry because the school is telling them that bubbling in answers is more important than reading books they care about.

I’m angry because my school does not offer membership in a union, because Texas is an at-will employment state, and I could literally be let go for no reason and have no legal redress. I’m angry about teachers in other states who’ve gotten fired for being LGBT, for discussing Trayvon Martin, and any number of political “controversies.”

I’m angry because one of my students complained about not having enough time to do his homework — an assignment individualized to him that he is allowed to work on during class — and then chose to use his independent working time to talk to his neighbors and roll his eyes at me. I’m angry that I haven’t yet figured out how to gain this student’s respect.

I’m angry that parents, students, and administrators expect me to respond immediately to emails, even when sent after working hours and on weekends.  I’m angry that I’m angry at myself for practicing self-care this weekend and spending long days reading over coffee, instead of responding to emails. I’m angry that teachers are considered lazy for taking time for themselves, ridiculed by the media, by politicians — and that celebrities or millionaires or CEOs don’t earn the same scorn.

I’m angry because, as a teacher, I am doing a job that is essential to the functioning of democracy, to the future of our society, and still barely getting by financially. I’m angry that my student loan payment is over $350 a month. I’m angry that I owe $500 in taxes next week and still have no idea how I’m going to pay it. I’m angry that teachers can only claim a $250 deduction for spending their own money on school supplies. I’m angry that I spent more than $250 last year… much more. I’m angry that teachers have to spend their own money in the first place. I’m angry that, despite my best efforts to go green, to go vegan, and to shop organically, I keep getting stymied because shelling out the extra dollar a pound for organic produce and non-GMO processed foods is scary when I’m so far behind on my bills. I’m angry that I will never be able to support my parents the way I would like to, because I will always be struggling to support myself. I’m angry that there are people working ten times as hard as I am, at jobs more dangerous and less rewarding than mine, in order to make ends meet and to take care of their families.

I’m angry that my job isn’t the only thing I’m angry about. I’m angry that President Obama signed the Monsanto Protection Act. I’m angry that Governor Perry continues to support racist and sexist legislation. I’m angry that the Texas House is trying to pass legislation that would cut funding to school districts that offer benefits to same-sex partners. I’m angry that only 20 of 100 U.S. Senators are women, and only one is a woman of color. I’m angry that my newly engaged baby sister is barred from getting married in 41 of the 50 states. I’m angry that people still insist on using the phrase “illegal immigrants.” I’m angry that when asked to list their biggest concerns, my students list unemployment, climate change, and gun violence.

Today, I’m angry. Tomorrow I will still be angry. But in my anger I’m reminded of this quote:

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and CourageAnger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” — St. Augustine

Today, I’m not ignoring what is making me angry. I’m refusing to keep that anger within the confines of the teachers’ lounge, or the happy hour, or the tears in the car on the ride home.  I will transform that anger into the courage to speak the truth about my experiences, and to challenge the forces that seek to destroy the voices of teachers and students across the country.

*Originally Posted April 8, 2013 at Cooperative Catalyst.

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